Just like my top 10 albums of the year list, my favorite songs list is a little bit all over the place. These are the songs that I gravitated to this year, as well as the ones that I think best represent the year in music. They’re all fantastic I promise. Stay tuned for my top 5 coming sometime soon.
I’ve always loved Beirut, mostly for Zach Condon’s voice and their fascinating instrumental tendancies. The new album is full of great songs, but this one stands out as my favorite. The piano intro/riff and drum parts have a poppy approachability to them, the horns give it just enough of their trademark French style, and Condon’s singing is just dramatic enough. I’m also obsessed with the Calliope-esque break and the transition out of it. Its exciting and different, but it still appeals to things I love about rock music.
Until this summer I had fully accepted that Dispatch, one of my first favorite bands, was over and finished releasing new material. To be honest, after this summer’s new self-titled EP it still doesn;t really feel like they’re back, but this one song ranks amongst their best acoustic offerings, and that’s saying something. The acoustic riff has an appealing, relaxed quality, and Pete Heimbold offers one of his best vocal performances to date, capturing the laid-back, beachy feeling of the song. It’s a great summer song, even though it might be winter right now.
Another polarizing figure of this year, Donald Childish Gambino Glover first attracted my attention with this cut, and I still think its his best. Lyrically, he’s absolutely obsessed with hip-hop conventions, especially mysogeny, gross-out humor and over-the-top bravado. Under this veneer though, Gambino has some real, honest emotion in many of his songs. I think Freaks and Geeks really sums up his lyrical approach and shows off his undeniably impressive flow. I think he’s a really interesting figure in rap and the indie world as a whole.
This album made #1 on some 2011 year-end lists, and even though it didn’t make mine I do love Bon Iver, and I think this song stands out on an otherwise interesting but kindof forgettable album. Justin Vernon has a fantastic ear for melody and the technical skills to put the sounds from his head on record without too much interference. His billion side projects have definitely changed him as a musician since the first Bon Iver album (which I absolutely love), and as creative as he is here, I wish he’d return to more of a focus on conventional song forms. That being said, I think the melody of “Perth” just sounds so natural and intuitive, and the layered production is absolutely gorgeous.
Merill Garbus, the formidable voice behind tUnEyArDs, really introduced the world to her crazy african-inspired melodic pop this year, and it left an impression on me as it did many others I think. This was the first song I ever heard of hers, highlighting her unique voice and innovative instrumental approach, which features the ukulele and relies heavily on looping. Her voice is crystal clear and perfect for her super-melodic style, and her joyful spirit is absolutely infectious. I wanna see tUnEyArDs live really badly.